Parks, Flooding: Update on Past and Upcoming Meetings

Corps of Engineers Releases Long-Awaited Regional Watershed Assessment

June 19, 2021

The wonderful thing about this virtual world is that you can go to meetings anywhere, anytime, stay cool and collected, and save time and gas.

And we have plenty of meetings of regional and local councils and committees to attend, plus a new federal watershed report to read.

Parks Board Public Meeting June 22

After some prodding, the Houston Parks Board has graciously revealed the time and date of its next public meeting, which is Tuesday, June 22. They’ve even announced it on the Intertubes! Previously a board spokesperson claimed that notices for its rare public meetings were posted on the bulletin board outside City Hall as required by law. The catch was you sorta had to know there was an upcoming meeting to go downtown to try to find the notice. We never saw one posted.

We and many others think the Houston Parks Board (along with the private conservancies that run some of our major public parks) should be more accountable, more transparent, and more representative of the public, which is why we are telling you about this. Also, they’ve done some damaging things to Buffalo Bayou.

Apparently the board also posted a notice online for the last meeting, which was Sept. 22, 2020. But even though we receive regular emails from the very nice people on the parks board staff, we missed the notice about this, which was quietly posted on the Houston Parks Board website on Sept. 18, 2020.

No idea what happened at that meeting because there don’t seem to be any minutes available to the public, which would seem to be contrary to the Open Meetings Act.

This is all very confusing because there are two Houston parks boards, a public local government corporation, which is subject to the Open Meetings Act (see also here), and a private Houston Parks Board foundation, which is not.

The public face of the parks board is the private foundation, which hires the staff and runs the website and major projects, like Bayou Greenways. All twenty appointed members of the public parks board, nominated by the mayor and approved by city council, are also on the private foundation board, which has an additional fifteen members.

The public Houston Parks Board meets virtually on June 22 at 10 a.m. Here is information about how to register for the meeting and make comments. Note that you must register before noon on Monday, June 21.

Note that the Uptown Development Authority, which is now co-managing and providing funding for development of Memorial Park along with the private Memorial Park Conservancy, is also a local government corporation. The authority has regular meetings open to public comment. Notices and agendas are posted on the Uptown website. The meetings, which are now both virtual and in-person, are scheduled for the fourth Wednesday of the month at 3:30 p.m., though the last meeting was on the third Wednesday.

Related: Shocking Plan to Bulldoze, Reroute Buffalo Bayou. Historic Banks of Memorial Park to Be Radically Altered

Planning for Flooding

Here are some of the upcoming meetings and events:

San Jacinto Region, June 23 and 25

The executive committee of the recently formed San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group will meet virtually Wednesday, June 23, at 9 a.m. to vote on two new voting members of the group. These two positions represent the Upper Watershed and Environmental Interests.

Here is how to register for that meeting, which also allows public and written comments.

The executive committee will meet again on June 25. Here is how to register for that meeting. (Public notice here.)

There are fifteen regional flood planning groups in the state of Texas. They are charged by the Texas Water Development Board with developing regional plans to reduce flood risk. The draft plans are to be delivered to the state board by Aug. 1, 2022.

At the full meeting of the group on June 10, Chair Russ Poppe announced that there were twelve applications for the two positions, out of which the committee selected five candidates.

The group, which represents Region 6, may now have to find another member and new chair since Russ Poppe resigned as executive director of the Harris County Flood Control District effective July 2.

Read the rest of this post to find out about other flood planning meetings and reports.

Flood Planning Meetings, Comments

Flooding Begins on the Land

June 2, 2021

The technical and executive committees of the San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group are meeting Thursday morning and Friday afternoon. The San Jacinto river basin includes Buffalo Bayou and many other tributaries and major streams. It extends from Galveston to Huntsville, from Sugarland to Winnie.

These committees and our regional flood planning group are responsible for developing flood reduction and protection projects to be funded by the Texas Water Development Board. The deadline to deliver the draft regional flood plan to the board is Aug. 1, 2022.

The technical committee, which consists of four voting members of the group, meets at 9 a.m. Thursday, June 3. You can join the virtual meeting by registering here. You can also register with that link to make public comments or send in comments before or after the meeting.

Save Buffalo Bayou sent in a comment asking for clarification on the purpose of the technical committee. The regional group has selected technical consultants headed by Freese and Nichols to assist the planning.

The executive committee of the regional group, known as Region 6, meets on Friday, June 4, at 1 p.m. You can join that virtual meeting, register to make a public comment, or send in comments using this link.

The agenda for the executive committee meeting includes discussion of recommendations for new voting members on the committee to represent the Upper Watershed and Environmental Interests. The committee recently selected Galveston City Manager Brian Maxwell for the new Coastal Communities position and Christina Quintero for the Public Position.

Save Buffalo Bayou’s Comment

Save Buffalo Bayou sent in a general comment to both committees emphasizing that the focus of flood-risk and floodplain management should be on stopping stormwaters before they flood our streams. And while riverine flooding is only one aspect of our regional and state flooding problem, the goal of collecting as much stormwater as possible and moving it as quickly as possible is outdated, ineffective, and should be dropped. Enlightened practice focuses on managing flooding in place, stopping raindrops where they fall, and spreading out, slowing down, and soaking in the rain.

As a 2018 study of urban flooding reported, “[m]any cities and towns across the United States are giving considerable attention to plans that support the capture of rain in areas where it falls.” (p. 32)

We hope that the technical committee and the San Jacinto Regional Group will address the role of individuals, neighborhoods, homeowners’ associations, businesses, communities, cities and counties in reducing flood risk. Shared policies and strategies should be developed explaining, encouraging, even requiring responsible stormwater management from rooftops to parking lots.

Read the rest of Save Buffalo Bayou’s comment to the San Jacinto Regional Flood Planning Group.